Floods kill 10 in southern Brazil but rain easing
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Flooding had killed 10 people in southern Brazil's Parana state by Wednesday, and state officials declared an emergency in 130 cities including World Cup host Curitiba and popular tourist attraction Iguazu Falls
Torrential rainfall started on Saturday in the state bordering Paraguay and Argentina, but the sun was shining in most regions by Wednesday, according to Curitiba-based climate institute Simepar.
A new cold front will likely bring more rain to much of the state starting on Friday afternoon, Simepar Meteorologist Ana Beatriz Porto da Silva told Reuters, though she said it was too early to say if the first soccer match scheduled at the state's Baixada Arena will be affected.
Iran plays Nigeria in Curitiba on June 16, four days after the month-long tournament that will bring some 800,000 foreign visitors to Brazil kicks off in Sao Paulo.
The World Cup is taking place in an unusual weather year for Brazil. Severe heat and drought during the usual rainy season in January and February drained hydro-electric reservoirs and damaged crops, but the country may see intense, unseasonable rainfall during the typical dry period months of July and August due to the El Nino phenomenon.
Access to some tourist areas at Iguazu Falls on the Argentine border was restricted after water from one of the world's largest waterfall's surged across walkways.
Still, the entrance to the surrounding national park, one of South America's most popular attractions, was open on Wednesday, the Foz do Iguaçu's municipal office said. The airport and surrounding roads were also reported to be operating normally.
The floods were most severe in central-south Parana, an important agriculture region that is now less active during its drier, colder winter. The state is currently harvesting corn and planting wheat.
Parana state authorities reported 52 injuries and three missing people in a daily flood bulletin on Wednesday, estimating nearly 500,000 people were affected. No deaths or injuries were reported in Curitiba but 480 people had been forced to leave their homes.
The rains provided a needed boost to Brazil's energy grid, however, helping to refill reservoirs near the country's largest hydro power dam, Itaipu. Reservoirs in the southeast, which account for 70 percent of Brazil's hydroelectric power, remain near record lows after a drought earlier in the year.
Brazil relies on hydro power for two-thirds of its energy and analysts feared the country could face rationing during the World Cup. The rain concentrated in the far south is not enough to erase concerns over national energy supply this year.
(Additional reporting by Anna Flavia Rocha; Editing by David Gregorio)